"Autumn Vintage Festival," Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1877, WikiArt photo.
“Autumn Vintage Festival,” Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1877, WikiArt photo.

Seduction in sacred forests, ancient rituals,
Torchlight and wine, bride of Dionysus, god
And mortal maiden merged, divine seed sewn
In fertile chalice, passions ungoverned upon
Animal skins, faces gleaming silver and gold,
My daughter, Iliona, air-thin mountain heights
Conceived, ascending demigoddess.

Fruit of my womb, deific child born, infant
Wrested from mother’s breast, decades of
Peace promised, our lives transformed, bliss
And bane, Iliona sipped from holy streams,
Attic heroine, sword and shield raised high,
Light and truth, daughter given sight divine,
She perceived infinity in minute things.

My soul fire-burning, I longed for glimpse
Of Iliona, pilgrimages made to temple steps,
Access denied, threat of stoning, sacrifices
And offerings made for moments at her feet,
On elevated heights, my daughter existed
Beyond imagination and dreams. Does she
Laugh, cry, or long comfort of my arms?

Such were my sorrows after ecstasies of wine
And flesh until given word of night meeting
At olive groves, hooded figure approached,
Death’s knife or message from Iliona, my
Heart bounded, live or die, my daughter so
Revealed, face like mine, her being divine,
Arms extended, to her feet I fell prostrate.

"Work Interrupted," William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1881, WikiArt photo.
“Work Interrupted,” William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1881, WikiArt photo, for this poem Iliona.

Raised to mountain heights, mother held to
Daughter’s breasts, amongst clouds and stars
We sailed, deific citadels, glories of sunrise,
My heart in harmony, life’s intricate tapestry,
Eyes opened to divine sights, grace and good-
Ness, I understood Dionysian mysteries and
Blessings of ancient wine rites.

Yet, to sacred olive groves I returned not, for
Death had taken me. In fanciful flight, decades
Of peace vanished, glimpse of Iliona brought
War to Attic countrysides, mother’s burden,
Willing self-sacrifice, such fates tempted, had
I lived to white-haired wisdom, my eyes, too,
Could have perceived infinity in minute things.

For more on Dionysian rites or rituals with respect to
frescoes (and their meaning) found in Pompeii excavations,
see Villa of the Mysteries. 

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